Do you think recording studios have bad days?

ANd of course different studios may have different approaches/standards.

 If someone hasn't done already, it suggests itself as worth a study of sound quality vs recording studio/ engineer/mastering person (and for CD and vinyl, pressing plant) to see if there are identifiable 'culprits' to avoid if possible - maybe if someone were to set up a database we could all contribute...

Innocent Bystander posted:

 If someone hasn't done already, it suggests itself as worth a study of sound quality vs recording studio/ engineer/mastering person (and for CD and vinyl, pressing plant) to see if there are identifiable 'culprits' to avoid if possible - maybe if someone were to set up a database we could all contribute...

Are you really going to avoid an artist if they've chosen a particular studio / Engineer ?

A good system will allow you to enjoy the music however it's produced. Good recorded SQ is a bonus but not an essential.

There is an article I think in the latest hifi news about a musician turned mastering engineer. He was shocked at what the mastering guys were doing to his recordings, and is now remastering old classics etc. I only gave it a passing scan, might be worth a deeper read. It’s available on the issuu app for free, think it was the same November issue as the Nova review.

'Produced/mastered by Bob Ludwig' used to be a mark of excellence and guarantee of a great sound. Ditto Roy Halee. Not any more.

Listen to an original LP or CD of 'Graceland' produced/engineered by Paul Simon and by Roy Halee from 1986 and the same pair's production work on PS' latest album 'Stranger to Stranger'. Have they both gone deaf? There is absolutely no comparison.

Similarly, Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree's back catalogue sounds generally pretty good. Wilson's new one 'To the Bone' sounds very poor on CD and vinyl on a high resolution sound system. A really disappointing sell-out to the mass market mp3 brigade. I've ripped it in 256k onto my iPhone, and that is where it sounds best. Go figure.

Sleeve notes of new popular music should state 'Produced/mastered by xyz, and dumbed-down for mass market lo-fi consumption'.

John.

MAstering used to be a necessary art form -- getting sound onto an LP was hard. You ended up mono-ing much of the bass, and trying very hard not to have too much stylus excursion. You were trying to work around the limitations of the format.

Along came AM and FM pop radio, and the rise of the Optimod, which works like a real time equaliser trying to crunch everything up to maximum modulation. Why? cos research showed that people tended to pick out "louder" channels when scanning the dial.

Along comes CD and we dont need vinyl mastering any more. So what does the industry do? Shift its attention to premastering for radio, and from that comes a whole cult of "modern mastering". Which is basically "lets take something pretty decent and screw it up".

Hence the steady downward slope in sound quality and dynamic range on modern recordings. The atrocious use of ganged limiters on both channels, causing that sea-sickening pumping of the midrange when a bass beat comes along.

Apparantly this is "the commercial sound of today". I spit on it. 

jon honeyball posted:

MAstering used to be a necessary art form -- getting sound onto an LP was hard. You ended up mono-ing much of the bass, and trying very hard not to have too much stylus excursion. You were trying to work around the limitations of the format.

Along came AM and FM pop radio, and the rise of the Optimod, which works like a real time equaliser trying to crunch everything up to maximum modulation. Why? cos research showed that people tended to pick out "louder" channels when scanning the dial.

Along comes CD and we dont need vinyl mastering any more. So what does the industry do? Shift its attention to premastering for radio, and from that comes a whole cult of "modern mastering". Which is basically "lets take something pretty decent and screw it up".

Hence the steady downward slope in sound quality and dynamic range on modern recordings. The atrocious use of ganged limiters on both channels, causing that sea-sickening pumping of the midrange when a bass beat comes along.

Apparantly this is "the commercial sound of today". I spit on it. 

That's an excellent summary of what's happened to recordings over the last 25 years or so.  The book "Perfecting Sound Forever" charts the history of the art of recording and the battle for dominance of the FM waves that resulted in many of the abominations from the late '80's and 1990's - great read if you're interested in the art.  

J.N. posted:

'Produced/mastered by Bob Ludwig' used to be a mark of excellence and guarantee of a great sound. Ditto Roy Halee. Not any more.

Listen to an original LP or CD of 'Graceland' produced/engineered by Paul Simon and by Roy Halee from 1986 and the same pair's production work on PS' latest album 'Stranger to Stranger'. Have they both gone deaf? There is absolutely no comparison.

Similarly, Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree's back catalogue sounds generally pretty good. Wilson's new one 'To the Bone' sounds very poor on CD and vinyl on a high resolution sound system. A really disappointing sell-out to the mass market mp3 brigade. I've ripped it in 256k onto my iPhone, and that is where it sounds best. Go figure.

Sleeve notes of new popular music should state 'Produced/mastered by xyz, and dumbed-down for mass market lo-fi consumption'.

John.

I don't think "To the Bone" sounds that bad. What DOES indeed sound horrible (on the subject of Steven Wilson's mixing/mastering) is Opeth's "Sorceress" - music tastes aside. I have a hi-res download of that, and I don't understand how mr. Wilson managed that or whose fault it is, since he engineered a couple of Opeth's previous albums, and those sound great. This one is muffled, overly-warm and boomy, don't know what happened there.

"Perfecting sound forever" is indeed a great read. However, the fact that it describes a study in a controlled environment in which people are asked to guess which medium they are listening to (CD, MP3, HiRes etc), and the results are that no one can tell which is which, will be hard to read for the majority of the forum members here.

I agree that the last SW album sounds pretty good, maybe not as good as his previous solo outings. Sorceress is indeed very muffled and dark, I don't know what happened there....

J.N. posted:

Similarly, Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree's back catalogue sounds generally pretty good. Wilson's new one 'To the Bone' sounds very poor on CD and vinyl on a high resolution sound system. A really disappointing sell-out to the mass market mp3 brigade. I've ripped it in 256k onto my iPhone, and that is where it sounds best. Go figure.

Sleeve notes of new popular music should state 'Produced/mastered by xyz, and dumbed-down for mass market lo-fi consumption'.

John.

Agreed re 'To the Bone'. I chose to get this as a 24/96 download, expecting some audio mastery. However, that too sounds a bit dull and lifeless, despite the best efforts of Ms Tayeb.

I purchase remasters done before year 2000 and they tend to be excellent with the odd exception. From 2001 onward the exceptions slowly increase to become the norm and by 2010 only the exception is very good.

My own view is it is a combination of several factors.  I find remasters done on old-style mixing equipment and never having seen the innards of a computer have far lower noise floor and greater clarity.

People have mostly accepted low-quality relatively high noise-floor playback devices and consider music as something to produce tunes and songs and have no interest in anything else so the mastering has adapted to service this market of 'good enough' music.

Add to this the extra toys you get on modern computer mixing equipment that allows you to 'improve' all sorts of parameters of the original - and the Artists bland acceptance of whatever is done to their work and you have what we are getting.

Skill is no longer required as you are going to 'clean it up' later and the final quality standard is low and that is all most people really want.

It is sad, but not much to be done about it. Personally I've learned what to purchase and how far to go back in a catalogue of releases to obtain a good quality copy of anything I really like.

This is beyond the discussion of merits of CD, Vinyl or streaming and is imposed onto them all, as they are just the final format of what has been done upstream in the mastering.

In fact the word 'Mastering' seems inappropriate in the degree of mastery of the procedure shown.

But when I play some music remastered in the 80s and 90s and experience the full life and dynamics possible to achieve it is a pleasure to behold - even though it is so sad that the modern material is so so poor, with the occasional welcome exception.

DB.

Clive B posted:
J.N. posted:

All  Coldplay albums on CD sound pants on my Naim system.

John.

I detect some superfluous text, John. Surely you meant to say "All Coldplay albums sound pants".

I stated it as I did Clive, because I've not heard any Coldplay albums on vinyl on my system - but I get your drift.

The Steven Wilson situation is strange - I have his 2016 remaster of 'Stupid Dream' which sounds great; and is (to these ears at least) a definite improvement on the SQ of the original release. 'Hand. Cannot. Erase.' sounds fine too.

Some systems seem to mangle a specific piece of mastering more than others. It's interesting that Rainsoothe thinks that 'To the Bone' sounds not too bad.

As Gary (DB) states; the SQ/mastering of popular music has generally been sliding down the toilet bowl since about 2001 with now, only the exception sounding good on a high resolution system.

Indie labels seem currently to fare better. It takes a major label to properly achieve 'FUBB' status.

Good listening y'all.

John.

 

I don't think it's the recording studios. To me it's the mixing engineers that can make or break the album.

As some of you may know I'm now having a frustrating time mixing my band's album - took nearly 2 months to find a decent engineer - frightening how vastly different mixes were produced from the same raw files.

So when I hear a good sounding album - music is of course paramount and comes first. But when it sounds well, then I tend to pay attention even more.

Take early U2 albums for instance - great music, but abysmal mixing and production.

Adam, the only counterpoint i'd offer (and i realize i'm on shaky ground here as you're a musician and i'm not) is that perhaps U2 were aiming for a rough sound in those early days. for punk records, it's part of the charm -- and even if those bands anticipated that someday people with rad HiFi systems would play their records, i'm sure they'd have found that prospect offensive and lowered the recording quality accordingly.

as for Consciousmess's original post -- i think it's pretty funny! if studios were to buy Super Lumina cables, surely they would need to burn them in for 6 months before recording anything.

Good point re U2 aiming for the rough sound in the early days. They stemmed from the punk revolution so their records in a way aimed at sounding like that. The point is - their music was anything but punk (at least to me).

Anyhow - the recent re-masters, overseen by The Edge, addressed some of the 'shortcomings'. But one would have re-mix the entire catalogue, which of course is not feasible.

I want to throw this in the mix too, and I hope the wise forum comments!

Compare the speaker used in a recording studio to what the consumer can buy. I know Abbey Road uses B&Ws  speaker, not its top model, the Nautilus, but a high model. That in itself shows the studio is not the pinnacle. Moreover, there are speakers going over £100,000 and taking aesthetics into account, that’s still leagues ahead Abbey Road as example.

So is the recording studio therefore NOT the highest fidelity?

That’s curious, Adam, so can I infer that even though they have better electronics recording and mixing, the best sound comes from an optimal well set up home system - and many forum members may think of DB as to my reading DB has an active Naim highest tier???

The corollary of that is that the home listener hears it better than the musician!!!!

FME, albeit not universal I admit, professional musicians tend not to be overly obsessed with the quality of their domestic playback kit.  From another point of view there is little point in having high end hifi speakers to monitor studio playback because an insignificant number of consumers own such equipment.  When I worked in the record business - as it used to be known - the final test of a recording was to play it back through a standard portable FM radio that had had an input socket and suitable circuitry added. The acid test by the 1980's - was how it would be heard on FM by prospective purchasers.

Consciousmess posted:

That’s curious, Adam, so can I infer that even though they have better electronics recording and mixing, the best sound comes from an optimal well set up home system - and many forum members may think of DB as to my reading DB has an active Naim highest tier???

The corollary of that is that the home listener hears it better than the musician!!!!

Actually -  on the contrary.

A good studio (say a mixing one) will have equipment with price tags that will make even a Statement seem like a bargain. To illustrate a point - a good mixing console (say 48 channels) from either SSL or Neve can go up to a cool EUR 1 million. Plus all the off-board equipment.... and active speakers... and some more...

To use a car analogy - if your day-to-day car is a Formula 1-spec, nothing else available for domestic use, will come close to it. 

bluedog posted:

FME, albeit not universal I admit, professional musicians tend not to be overly obsessed with the quality of their domestic playback kit.  From another point of view there is little point in having high end hifi speakers to monitor studio playback because an insignificant number of consumers own such equipment.  When I worked in the record business - as it used to be known - the final test of a recording was to play it back through a standard portable FM radio that had had an input socket and suitable circuitry added. The acid test by the 1980's - was how it would be heard on FM by prospective purchasers.

Good point - the final acid test is: how will it sound on an average stereo, in a car, from an iPod, etc, etc...|

But... first it has to sound good to my ears, running a 96kHz / 24 bit file via my NDS / 252 / 300 and Ovators

Add Reply

Likes (0)
×
×
×
×